Book review · novel

Book Review: Caraval

Caraval (Caraval #1), by Stephanie Garber

isbn9781473629172Description: (from Hodder & Stoughton)

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Behold, my first (very) negative review. I had a lot of apprehension to write this because I know it’s a well-loved book but I’m sorry to say Caraval really was not for me. Frankly I tried to get into this with very low expectations, I didn’t want to be disappointed because of expectations too high. But I still was.
Thankfully I read Caraval with a friend so we had a lot of laughs and I don’t feel like I wasted my time entirely.

fullsizerender_4I was so excited to read it, I know I should not trust the hype and that I’m often a black sheep regarding hyped YA fantasy but I really wanted to like this one. I was mostly enthralled by the beautiful cover, interior design and nice magical premise.

I actually won this book on a giveaway by Hodderscape on twitter for their fifth birthday so I didn’t spend any money on this book, but since I usually love their books I was doubly disappointed. It was bound to happen I guess!
Still, I’m grateful that they kindly send me this book while it was not really out yet. If by any coincidence they see this review: again, thank you so much!

For this review to not be too much of a bother to write read I’ll do the list version!

Things I liked anyway:
  • I really thought it would make a beautiful movie at times.
  • The chapters are very short and it was a fast read.
  • There was so many plot twists! It made me speculate all over and change my mind, many theories rose and crashed to the ground while reading this book. It was fun.
  • Scarlett has synesthesia, hers is that she sees colours attached to her emotions. I previously didn’t know what synesthesia was and when someone talked about it on twitter (thanks to Caraval) I was intrigued and did some research to understand what it was. That’s how I realised that I also had some other kind of synesthesia!
  • It sure has a beautiful cover, beautiful secret covers hidden underneath the dust jacket (there are FIVE different ones!) and gorgeous interior design. Just for that I’m still grateful I was lucky enough to get a copy.
  • I know this is off-topic but: my Instagram picture of this book was actually my first picture ever to get to 200 likes. So, thanks designer! (Cover design by Alasdair Oliver, Art Director at Hodder.)
  • Sisters trying to save each others!
  • The very end was cool.



Things I didn’t liked: (If you liked this book, run away before I hurt your feelings T^T)
  • I am not a fan of stories where an abused girl keeps being lied to by everyone. Also, TW/CW for abusive parent and physical violence.
  • I felt like I should have had a lot of empathy for Scarlett but I actually found myself rolling my eyes at her too often. We don’t know enough about her and her sister Donatella to really be worried about them.
  • We are told ALL THE TIME that Scarlett loves her sister and that’s nice, I love stories focusing on sisterly love, but too many times I found Scarlett was very judgmental of her sister and treated her like a baby while she’s only one year younger. So we’re supposed to root for them but I didn’t really cared a lot.
  • She’s described many times as “not vain” but ohhhh how many times do we get descriptions of her beautiful dark hair and her beautiful silhouette, etc…? spoiler: it felt like a lot.
  • Everyone is beautiful and perfect. *rolls eyes*
  • Scarlett keeps on describing the back muscles and abs of this guy even in the weirdest of situations.
  • Everything is just TOO MUCH and over the top.
  • Even the characters think so, one actually said to Scarlett “Don’t be so dramatic”. I know some very awful things are happening to her but… still.
  • Everything they wear is ALSO perfect and beautiful. I’ve never been a big fan of dresses, I can appreciate one from time to time, but the amount of time spent describing new dresses, magical dresses, changing into yet another dress was… too much.
  • I read so many reviews, tweets and Instagram captions saying Caraval was beautifully written, with gorgeous and lush prose that I hoped to at least like the way it was written. Except I didn’t. I mean: “He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue.” Can someone please tell me what “midnight and wind” tastes like because I was kind of lost there? The actual real description should have been “he tasted like blood and alcohol” (kudos Cécile for finding this) and that would have been more accurate and, maybe, even sexier? I’m not a writer but that quote and many more were totally lost on me. (Another one: “He stood stoically like a wounded statue…” what?? Is this supposed to be a lovely image? It made me laugh.)
  • Too many quotes and situations made me laugh when I’m sure laughter wasn’t the intended reaction.
  • Too many plot twists kill the plot twists.
  • There is a decent number of side characters, but not enough time spent with them so I didn’t really cared for them.

If you still want to read Caraval, go ahead, maybe you’ll like it, so many people did, and it’s okay! If you still want to give this a chance, maybe read it with a friend so you can laugh together about how ridiculous it is.
I feel really bad about not liking that one, I hope no one feels attacked by my review. It was what I felt and I don’t mean to say that people who liked it are wrong. I’m glad this one found its audience, I’m just not on it. And I feel like I ought to be honest about how I felt about it.
Now, there are still more things I didn’t like but they are quite spoilery. So if some of you want to know what other things this book has in store that could unnerve you, go ahead and read what’s next!

Spoilery review: (VERY SPOILERY)
  • Remember when I said earlier that it would make a beautiful movie at times? Well I said “at times” because there were scenes that made me very uncomfortable. There is one scene where Scarlett has to ingest the blood of that guy and he hers, so they LICK EACH OTHER’S FINGERS (where the cut for blood was). It felt very weird to me. I was legit yelling “STOP LICKING EACH OTHER’S FINGERS PLEASE.” So, yeah, it was bad enough in my head, I don’t want to see that on screen. PLUS Scarlett is at the doors of death but she still badly wants to kiss that boy anyway. Okay.
  • At one point she realises the guy in bed with her might be a dangerous psychopath but instead of running away or confront him she keeps looking at herself in the mirror and wants to cry because one of her strand of hair turned grey/white (because of the death thing from just before). Cyring is okay but maybe not right this instant where her life might be in immediate danger??
  • For a while I was afraid Caraval would turn into some kind of vampire thing where the girl fall for the guy who doesn’t age. Then I was relieved that it didn’t. BUT THEN it actually did. So, sorry but I’m not swooning over old guys with young and beautiful body/face falling for a teenage girl with trust issues.
  • One plot twist ended up not even being the truth and I was quite disappointed about it because I thought it was cool. Please someone write me a novel where a girl dies or disappears so her fiancé and her brother team up to find her; that’d be awesome! Or even gender bent this!
  • Scarlett literally tells her sister “you can’t be in love with someone you just met” WHILE SHE DID THE EXACT SAME THING. Cool for the Frozen reference but this seems a little bit hypocritical.
  • That book is advertised with the sentence “Remember, it’s only a game” on the cover and it is repeated many times during the story so I was never really crushed by people dying or bad bad things happening because… The book and the side characters kept telling me Scarlett that she shouldn’t believe anything she saw. Like a good little reader I never trusted anything and I ended up feeling dead inside, always doubting everything that happened.
  • Their father is the WORST, but that’s done on purpose. Still, he’s awful but I don’t get why?? It seems he wasn’t like that before but then he became someone who could beat up his daughters and sell one and don’t even care if she’s raped? (There’s no rape in there, thankfully.) There’s some kind of reason given, but to me NOTHING explains such a change of character. Or he was just a bad person from the start.
  • Nothing is explained but ***happy ending anyway yay that person who was dead is not dead anymore, why? we don’t know, it’s magic!***


As a thank you gift to those who read this, maybe you’d like to know the BIGGEST spoiler about the end, one that I actually enjoyed? (Highlight to see, because I don’t want someone to get spoiled this big one by mistake!)

  • Tella, the younger sister whom Scarlett treats like a baby, is actually the mastermind behind all of this and is quite hardcore. Like, she has zero chill. I actually loved this plot twist. This is going to be a duology and I’m pretty sure the second will be on the point of view of Tella, that could end up being not too bad.

So, that’s it. *hides*


(Quick Edit: I read some other reviews and I found this one which is really great and talks about some other stuff that I forgot to mention!)



17 thoughts on “Book Review: Caraval

  1. Bahaha, I love your review! It actually (almost) makes me want to buddy read it so I can laugh some more. Your review already made me laugh and roll my eyes a lot, so I can see how reading it with a friend would be entertaining.

    Seriously, though, the similes you quoted are hilarious. It’s always obvious when the author is trying way too hard, but do they actually think about what they’re writing? Those lines make no sense! And all the superficial gushing over how hot everyone is…UGH. That’s one of my biggest bookish pet peeves.

    Don’t worry, your review wasn’t offensive at all! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thank you for your comment :’) ❤️

      If you’re really curious about it, a buddy-read is the perfect solution!

      And I tried to not quite too much so.. I’ll leave you to your imagination for the rest 😂 — but it’s sad that the author actually teaches creative writing at a private college, like, why?:(

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, I caved and read the spoilers. I’m glad I did, because now I DEFINITELY don’t want to read it. The third spoiler is one of my least favorite things to happen in books. I was already wondering if that’s the direction it was headed when I read the first spoiler. But I actually really like your idea in the fourth spoiler!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy I included them then! I know some of these are big no-no for me so I thought they might be helpful for indecisive people 😉

      Right?? That would be so cool!!


  3. I skimmed your review, because I am about to read this and wanted to go in with fresh eyes. I saw that you didn’t really enjoy it though, which is what I’d been afraid of because of our recent discussion about how I’d seen some very mixed reactions. So sorry to hear you didn’t like it as much you’d hoped!


    1. Ha, I’m still wishing you a good read! I’d love to know what you think after you read it!
      Haha thanks, I still had fun thanks to the fact that it was a buddy-read 😅


  4. I really wanted to read that book because from the synopsis you get kinda good feeling about it but still got a second feeling that I’m not going to like it. And now as I’ve read your review I don’t know if I want to read it anymore. I love books with plot twists and those covers *heart eyes emoji* but still I just don’t know. I hate when characters are described as not vain and then perfection is everywhere. Sometimes overhyped books don’t deserve the hyped. Anyway maybe in the future I’ll give it a chance if I don’t forget about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh? This is probably the first ever negative review of Caraval I saw :O
    Everyone raves all about it and I heard nothing but AMAZING things.
    Interesting to see different opinions too (:


    1. Ha, as time passed I came to see a looooot of negative reviews of Caraval, I feel less lonely than when I read it and posted this ^^
      Exactly! I can see why some people liked it but… that was definitely not for me ^^


  6. OMGOSH YES. I thought it was a fine debut, but it was a debut nonetheless. I think Garber has some real talent, but this is not the peak of her career, which is FINE. There were a lot of issues I had with Caraval as well, and I wanted to like it because there was literally SO MUCH HYPE, people will pledge their first born child to owning all the copies but actually it lacks a lot???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I really don’t understand this hype…
      I mean I would understand that some people like it, it’s okay, but SO MANY? When it’s so… :/ I don’t know, the great cover and interior design sure played a huge part in this I believe.


      1. ^^ YES. I completely agree. It was SO hyped too. Like everywhere you turned last November SOMEONE was talking about it. Actually Thoughts on Tomes on YouTube wrapped up a lot of my thoughts about it nicely.


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